Lecture Details and Reviews
Having completed the volume on Henley, the editor of Victoria County History Oxfordshire, Simon Townley, spoke in March about his continuing work on Ewelme Hundred. This project involves 14 parishes encompassing Nettlebed, Benson, Ewelme, and Warborough.
(Nettlebed, Nuffield and Swyncombe now available on website: www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk). VCH aims to be an encyclopaedic record of Englandâ€™s places and people from earliest times to the present day. This very varied area incorporates uplands and dispersed settlement and early enclosure of hedged fields.
Coincidentally, Stephen Mileson is conducting a South Oxfordshire project giving perceptions of landscape, settlement and society AD 500-1650.
Simon Townley spoke of Benson being a very important Anglo-Saxon centre of a royal estate, with a huge territory dependent on it. However, Benson estate was fragmented through royal grants in the early Middle Ages. The ancient manor of Henley was hived off in 1197 and then Phyllis Court in 1340.
Benson manor still retained some land and rights, including Northfield and Assendon; these were owned by the Stapletons in the 19th century. They claimed quit rents based on perambulations of the boundaries. The manor of Benson still holds turnpike rights on Henley-Dorchester road which allowed grazing on verges until 1826.
Benson, Ewelme, Britwell Salome, and Warborough had an inter-connected field system which was not enclosed until 1863. Anglo-Saxon metal finds NW & E of Benson suggest the high status of Benson, the extent of which had repercussions to modern times.
Ewelme is located at the base of the Chiltern foothills, with a spring flowing through the village. There were four separate manor houses and a church, almshouses and grammar school (all still in use). In the 15th century the de la Poles held the Lord of the Manor and their splendid memorial rests by the altar in the Lady Chapel of the church.
The main house was mostly demolished in 1612 and only a quarter of the lodging range remains, built of expensive brick and stone. Recent excavations on site revealed Anglo-Saxon and medieval finds.
In other respects Ewelme represents an agricultural community typical of the area.
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